COPA AMERICA 2011: Argentina 3:0 Costa Rica
They had to win to survive, but in the end Argentina qualified comfortably for the last eight of the Copa America with a 3:0 thrashing of Costa Rica in Cordoba.
Fears of a humiliating elimination proved unfounded; The Albiceleste never broke a sweat and at with a static Costa Rican defence and a game which was played at almost walking pace at times, the meeting between the hosts and the guests had the whiff of a friendly.
A slow first half warmed up in the closing minutes as Argentina began to cut through the red shirts with ease and pepper the goal from all angles. The breakthrough came when Sergio Aguero, whom coach Sergio Batista admitted after the draw with Colombia he should not have omitted, found the net in first-half injury time chasing up a parried shot.
Psychologically the timing was perfect and after the break the blue and white shirts were in control. Aguero, preferred to Carlos Tevez, steered the ball home from a Lionel Messi through-ball seven minutes after the break to ally any remaining nerves and when Angel Di Maria fired in a third just after the hour it was all over.
Costa Rica's lack of pressing in the middle allowed Messi unusual time and space to pull the strings and remind the many critics of his previous two performances of his magic feet.
So courtesy of a supine guest and the hosts are through and Argentina can breathe again. But sterner tests await.
The Albiceleste play the second team from Group C (Chile, Peru or Uruguay) in their quarter-final in Santa Fe on Saturday night.
Group A Final Points Tally
Colombia 7, Argentina 5, Costa Rica 3, Bolivia 1.
Today: Chile v Peru, Uruguay v Mexico
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile